CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Beanpot Tournament and league stretch run loom large for Harvard. But on the backs of goaltender Kyle Richter, forward Alex Meintel, and an incandescent power play, the gauntlet isn’t half as menacing anymore to the streaking Crimson.
Tweny-four hours after defeating Union on the strength of a three-for-six power play, Harvard again converted on half of their six advantages in a 3-1 win over Rensselaer. Meintel scored the first goal of the game early in the second period, freshman Chad Morin scored the game-winner nearly 20 minutes later, and Richter stopped 20 of 21 shots his ninth consecutive start.
“The power play’s going good . . . the pucks just keep hitting off me, off my stick,” said Meintel, who scored all of his goals this weekend from close range, including three deflection/redirections.
For RPI, however, the weekend ended in disappointment despite strong performances at Dartmouth and Harvard.
“We struggle to score,” said head coach Seth Appert. “We just do. It’s something that’s been consistent all year.”
“Their special teams were the difference in the game… special teams and goaltending. We didn’t block shots on the power play” and that’s what did us in, the coach said.
In what Appert described as a tight and physical, playoff-quality game, he said afterward that he could feel that the first goal would be immense.
“Chances were tough to come by,” he stated simply.
That crucial first goal nearly caught everyone in the arena by surprise. With many of the 2,676 still filing into their seats, the puck squirted through Richter and sat conspicuously on the goal line before Meintel swooped in to clear it from danger.
After the quick scare, however, the Crimson picked up where they’d left off on Friday evening. The Ivy side swarmed the visiting Engineers, putting four shots on starting goaltender Mathias Lange in the first two and a half minutes of play. Fewer than five minutes into the game, sophomore Jimmy Fraser stormed unabated toward Lange down the left-wing lane, but was denied on a ten-foot shot.
The hosts controlled the play throughout the initial frame, allowing only sporadic yet dicey RPI forays into the Harvard zone. Lange made another quality stop on junior center Paul Dufault with 13:19 left in the first, gloving down a quickly released snapshot from the left-wing dot.
The teams traded trips to the box in the first; first RPI’s Jake Morissette near the halfway mark, then Tyler Magura for Harvard at 18:43. The Engineers’ captain Kirk MacDonald was whistled for a high-sticking minor with only five seconds to play in the first, however, negating a remaining 48 seconds of power play time.
At 1:38 of the second, 55 seconds after Magura’s penalty expired, Harvard’s PP unit came through. Defender and team captain Dylan Reese cracked a shot on goal, which clipped Meintel’s stick and skidded by a surprised Lange for the 1-0 lead.
The ‘Tute team fought back though. After killing a Kurt Colling boarding penalty, the Engineers generated a pair of brilliant scoring opportunities.
First, six and a half minutes in, sophomore winger Seth Klerer fed Morissette from just beneath the goal line to Richter’s left. The pass found Morissette alone in the right-wing slot, but his shot was pasted right into a butterflied Richter’s pads.
Then in the game’s 29th minute, left wing Andrei Uryadov stayed a step ahead of the Crimson defense just long enough to get off a breakaway slapshot. Again, Richter closed his pads tight to stymie the Russian sophomore.
Harvard took a frustration penalty at 9:30 of the second period, as Steve Mandes was dismissed for slashing. Just as the penalty expired, an Andrew Lord shot was tipped and fluttered toward the Crimson net. Engineers’ senior winger Tommy Green gloved it down at the two o’clock point of the crease’s edge, but Richter had time to reposition himself for the save.
As the clock wound down on the second period, MacDonald was again found guilty of an infractionthis time hooking, with a mere 17 seconds before the horn.
It was a foul that the redshirt senior would most certainly come to regret.
At 1:14, Harvard’s Morin earned himself a take-home puck. In his first NCAA game, the freshman scored his first goal… which was also his first power play goal, and ended up being the first game-winning goal of his young collegiate career to boot.
As classmate Doug Rogers whistled a bid netward, Morin smartly tipped it by Lange for an imposing two-goal advantage.
The following 15 minutes of game time were dominated by penalties, as Harvard took four minors and Rensselaer was whistled for two. Harvard’s final penalty of the contesta 14:28 interference call on Ian Tallett, also playing in his first gamedirectly led to RPI’s only goal.
Literally as the penalty clock hit zero, Rensselaer senior Kevin Broad redirected a Jake Luthi blast to cut their deficit to 2-1. The goal came on RPI’s 21st shot, breaking Richter’s bid for his second shutout of the season.
The visitors’ Matt Angers-Goulet took an ill-timed boarding penalty with only 2:13 to play, and Appert used his team’s timeout. Lange left the net with 57 seconds remaining and the Engineers controlling the puck. The ‘Tute applied heavy and consistent pressure despite the disadvantage, and earned an offensive-zone faceoff with more than 20 seconds left after a Crimson icing call.
Rensselaer won the faceoff, but Uryadov was forced to the boards with the puck and made a blind pass from just inside the Harvard blueline. Mandes picked it off and raced up-ice, burying a 30-foot empty-netter (also a power play goal) with 15 seconds on the clock.
Harvard played without sophomore defender Brian McCafferty, who was a late scratch. The Crimson climbed into a tie for sixth place in the ECACHL with Colgate, only two points short of a first-round bye.
Rensselaer dropped to the cellar over the weekend, even with travel partner Union at 12 points apiece yet still only two points behind Princeton for the final home-ice spot.
Harvard only has 47 hours to rest before meeting Boston College in the 55th annual Beanpot at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden. The school hasn’t won a first-round match in the tournament in eight years, but is probably the hottest of the four participating programs at the moment.
The Engineers return home next weekend for games against Colgate and Cornell. Rensselaer tied Cornell 3-3 in their first meeting, and lost a 3-2 decision at 0Colgate the following evening.